Tony Martin will be expected to lead and inspire the Omega Pharma-Quick Step team in the world team time trial championships, using his power and speed to provide long turns on the front on the flat sections, and then marshal the squad through a technical finale.
Martin is the current individual time trial champion and is determined to go on to complete a world title double by winning a third consecutive individual time trial title on Wednesday.
Both time trials follow the same 57km route from Montecatini Terme to Florence, covering a short climb to Serravalle Pistoiese early on before 42km on flat straight roads that have been resurfaced specifically for the world championships. Only the technical section in the centre of Renaissance Florence and in the shadow of the stunning Duomo offer a technical challenge due to cobbles, speed humps, and some tight turns,
"It's a really nice parcours. It's not really technical until the final two or three kilometres," Martin told Cyclingnews after Omega Pharma-Quick Step completed their reconnaissance of the roads.
"But as soon as you hit the finale, it really gets tricky, especially in the old centre of the city. There are some narrow roads and some cobbles. When you're on your own, it's not a problem but with six guys it makes it tricky. You have to find a balance between taking some risks and not losing time."
When Omega Pharma-Quick Step won the first ever team time trial world title, their squad of six included Tom Boonen. He has been replaced by Michal Kwiatkowski this year but Martin is confident in Sylvain Chavanel, Kwiatkowski, Niki Terpstra, Kristof Vandewalle and Peter Velits.
"There's a good atmosphere, I think it's going to be a good Worlds."
"I think BMC and Orica-GreenEdge are the big favourites along with us. We want to win for sure. For me we're the best team but we still have to keep in mind that other teams have worked hard to be successful here. We're not sure of winning but we're pretty confident."
Aldag dialing in the gear
The team's technical advisor Rolf Aldag helped the riders work through the tricky prospect of dialing in the gears for a three-part course which begins with a climb, has 50km of dead flat, straight road, and then ends with a heart-stopping series of turns in the city of Florence.
"We didn't necessarily want to limit riders on the gears, we might be able to go faster, but then they couldn't hold the cadence. You don't necessarily want to go into the small ring [on the climb]," Aldag said. "Today we don't have a strong wind, but usually we should have a side-tailwind and that will make it faster."
"What we learned from the Tour de France was that every team can go fast on a dead flat, straight road. The time differences were really small," Aldag said. Omega Pharma lost by a single second to Orica-GreenEdge, with Sky only three seconds back. In last year's championship the team beat BMC by two seconds.
"We're prepared for it to be very tight again. Last year's championship was super close, this year's Tour de France was super close. It's double the distance, but even if you double it, the gap between teams is not one second, it's two, or four. You never know. They'll have to take risks, go to their limit - there will never be a point where they're leading by 1:30 and they can just relax."
While most teams previewed the course from start to finish, BMC skipped the first 50km and spent the morning doing laps of the final kilometres in Florence to dial in all of the turns. Omega Pharma-Quickstep is relying on video footage to help the riders memorize the turns, but Aldag says getting it right will be critical.
"After 50km to get into all these left, right, left corners and not a chance to see it too many times, it's a bit scary. Hopefully - we have it on film and they'll watch it over and over, but it would be better to be able to ride it 10 times."
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